There is a high correlation between codependency and money issues. A “money codependent” really isn’t any different than a regular codependent; the term codependent describes the people who live with alcoholics or other addicts. Codependents think they are responsible for everything that happens—including the behavior of the addict! So in their minds, it’s really their fault when bad things happen, regardless of who did it.
Money codependent is simply a subset—someone who uses money as a tool to “manage” their environment. They (try to) use money to elicit a specific behavior, reaction or emotion from someone else. Most people aren’t even aware that it’s happening . . . but maybe something feels “off.”
And that’s the real issue; money codependency is subtle. It can be mistaken for extreme generosity and that’s what most people believe is taking place—they’re just being generous. My codependency wasn’t clear to me until I was over 30 years old—and even now, I’d characterize my family as highly functional. So did I become codependent because of glimpses of addiction in my own home, or in spite of it?
The answer as to HOW you become codependent is not as important as what you do to change, especially if it’s interfering with your success with money. Here’s a few questions you can ask yourself . . . do you use money to:
Try to be perfect? Perfection is costly to maintain: perfect home, furniture, décor, car, clothes . . . when people aren’t concerned with being perfect, their spending accurately reflects what they really value.
Correct something when your spouse or child makes a mistake? Since codependents think they are responsible for everything, a misstep by a loved one reflects poorly on them. They might even spend money to try and “fix” the misstep by hiring extra tutors, coaches; better clothes and haircuts . . .
Ignore your needs and try to please other people? I remember once I drove 45 minutes both ways to network with someone—I never even considered the possibility of meeting in the middle! Codependents waste a lot of time and money catering to what other people want, mostly because they haven’t stopped to think what it is they actually want for themselves.
Give to others excessively? I used to be a lavish gift giver . . . I would plan holiday gifts MONTHS in advance, and give gifts to mere acquaintances. In relationships, I always had the perfect gift for each occasion, often giving more than I got back.
Jump into other people’s problems? Because I always gave SO much to everyone in my life, I felt I earned this “right” to provide advice and input. I kept tabs on everyone and had an opinion on every action they took. It never occurred to me NOT to drop everything and insert myself. The need to help was compulsive.
Pay for things because you don’t know how to establish boundaries? How many times did I go to dinners, trips and events, just because I couldn’t say no? It never occurred to me that “no” was an option. I wasted countless dollars doing things I never even cared about.
Avoid thinking about yourself and instead focus on what your spouse and children want? As a codependent, I spent so much time focused on my loved ones, that I lost sight of what made me happy. I never spent much money on myself because I honestly didn’t KNOW what I wanted. But I sure knew what my loved ones wanted (or, I THOUGHT I knew), so I spent a lot of money on them!
Make people care about you as much as you care about them? As a codependent, you spend A LOT of time figuring out (or TRYING to figure out) what other people are thinking; how dare they not spend the same amount of time thinking about you! So to try and get the attention you want from someone, you might spend lavishly.
Codependent behavior is about becoming so focused on fulfilling an ideal situation, relationship or thing that who you are and what you want doesn’t even play into your decision criteria. You forget what you actually want and value. So much money, time and emotion are wasted in pursuit of the imagined ideal that can never be fully realized.
The first step to recovery is realizing that as hard as you try, your path to “perfect” isn’t getting you what you ultimately want out of life—be that wealth, love or something else. The codependent must realize that s/he will never reach her destination when making “perfect” the priority. I’m lucky that I met someone who understood what I was doing—unconsciously–and helped me see the truth.
I’ve found that I have to tell myself—even now, years later—that I am ONLY responsible for my part of any relationship. I’ve found the analogy of rowing the boat to assess my behavior to be especially useful:
I am not alone in the boat, therefore, I am not solely responsible for rowing . . . in fact, every now and then, I need to STOP rowing the boat to make sure that the others in the boat are right there with me, rowing along and doing their share. I do not need to tell anyone how to row a boat or help them see that they are not rowing (that’s their own business). And, I do not need to maintain relationships where the other people in the boat aren’t rowing.
This analogy has saved me countless relationships and dollars. Now, I know that my first step with any decision involving money and other people is, am I using money to help row the boat, or is this MY part of an equitable relationship?
P.S. I have helped myself with these issues in a BIG WAY by paying attention to my energy, and what I am bringing to people and situations. You can learn more about that and download my free ebook that speaks to these issues here.